Blue-Collar Industries Facing Massive Skills Shortage

A significant labor shortage is on the way in more than just the trucking industry.  Blue-collar industries such as manufacturing, trades, and construction will be soon facing the same problem.  In the trucking industry, the lion share of the truckers are nearing retirement age with not enough new incoming drivers to replace them.  The need for truck drivers has also increased, compounding the problem.

The main issue with the other blue-collar industries is their “image problem.”  Over the past several decades American society has begun to believe that to have a successful and prosperous life you need a college degree.  Where this came from is unclear, but it is completely inaccurate.  A recent side by side wage comparison shows blue-collar jobs next to white-collar jobs.  In several cases, the blue-collar job is equal to or higher than the white-collar job.  Here are some examples (these are mid-career average wages):

  • Civil Engineer ($61,611 a year) vs. Elevator Installer/Repairer ($63,500 a year)
  • Clinical Laboratory Scientists ($56,268) vs. Construction Contractor ($59,927)
  • Architect ($54,291) vs. Journeyman/Lineman ($58,720)
  • Bank Teller ($21,714) vs. Auto Mechanic ($41,136)
  • Reference Librarian ($44,473) vs. HVAC Mechanic ($50,980)
  • Social Worker (with a Master’s Degree in Social Work) ($40,754) vs. Bricklayer ($44,380)

You can view more here.

A Lackluster Image

The blue-collar jobs listed above do not require a 4-year college degree, while most of the white-collar jobs above do.  The unjust image of the blue-collar industries our society has created over the years is perplexing.  By 2025 the National Association of Manufactures predicts that U.S. companies will be facing two million job vacancies.  Similarly, the American Welding Society predicts the manufacturing industries will need 300,000 welders and welding instructors by 2020.  That is less than three years away!  Did you know that a Welder can make $90,000 a year?  There is a huge knowledge gap about the blue-collar industries.

The problem is that most of America does not know that many skilled trades earn very respectable wages.  Furthermore, one can get into skilled trades by apprenticing or pursuing a certification.  The more experience you get in skilled trades, the more money and promotions you can acheive.

One of the biggest gaps in filling these potential 2 million jobs in manufacturing is women.  Just like the IT industry, women are vastly underrepresented.

The problem begins with the American education system.  The past 50 years has seen a shift from teaching skills towards preparing children to pass tests.  Are there even public schools that have shop class anymore?  Home economics?  The newer generations entering the job market are lacking skills that were once taught in school.  If the emphasis of education is to pass tests, that is what they will learn.  And passing tests transfers over into college, not a vocational college or an apprenticeship.

Potential Solutions

The blue-collar industries acknowledge they need to play a part in changing their image.  Part if this will include paid time off.  Also, adding credential programs for certain skills will help to keep employees within the industry.  Furthermore, like white-collar jobs have LinkedIn as an online community, Jobcase is the equivalent for blue-collar jobs, just less known.  Employers also need to go out and seek potential employees.  Calling for change and creating diversity within the blue-collar industries is one thing, actually going out and doing it is another.

Original source: HRdive